Meaningful play - the future of children’s hospitals

Key takeaways from BørneRiget’s talk at Random Friday

On October 1st, we had the pleasure to receive BørneRiget as speakers at the EGGS Design Denmark’s Random Friday event. BørneRiget is a new hospital for children, young and pregnant women being built in Copenhagen. They strive towards setting the new standard for treating seriously ill patients while supporting the family. In this article, we summarise the key takeaways from the presentation done by anthropologist Ditte Marie Hansen, designer Sarah Borup and play designer Casper Reitz Mathiesen.

Having your child get diagnosed with a serious illness is a life-changing event for the child and the whole family. The first contact point with the healthcare system is crucial for the entire experience and a defining moment for the family. By incorporating play into the experience, BørneRiget aims to create a meaningful and positive experience.

Implementing play as a meaningful but goalless activity

Being hospitalised with a potentially deadly illness is like being in a different world. Not only is there the stress of the illness, but hospitals are perceived as impersonal and unfamiliar spaces. Health care staff are excellent at dealing with young patients, but with funding from the Ole Kirk Foundation (Ole Kirk is the founder of LEGO), BørneRiget works with helping them get even better at implementing playing into the overall hospital experience - from treatment to architecture.

To explore how patients, next of kind, and staff would react to playful interactions in the hospital, the design team installed a motion-sensor button in the elevator, which, when pushed, would play playful recordings, like the sound of a rocket taking off or a fart sound. It was received with both laughter and smiles by staff and patients and showed the openness to play in hospital settings.

Making space for family life

Seriously ill children, young or pregnant women often have frequent visits to the hospital with occasional hospitalisations for extended periods at a time. The hospital room becomes the family’s second home, but unfortunately, the rooms are rarely designed to accommodate this. By working closely with the children and families in the hospital, BørneRiget provides room for the small everyday family activities we often take for granted. For example, preparing dinner together, watching a movie on the couch, or sleeping together in the same bed.

Preventing development stagnation through play

During long stints of hospitalisation, the development of young patients often stagnates and falls behind that of their peers. With a focus on patients’ life after the illness, BørneRiget incorporates play to secure the development of both social and motor skills.

Play can also help the child to accept the illness and help reduce anxiety related to treatments. For example, by the child ‘treating’ a toy or another person.

By giving space to family life during treatment and incorporating play in the treatment process, BørneRiget is in the process of becoming part of the new generation of hospitals for children, young and pregnant women. Here, everyday life is allowed to continue; children can be children and are given a chance to develop as normally as possible.

Sounds interesting?

Jasper Vangsgaard

Get in touch with Junior Service Designer
Jasper Vangsgaard
+45 301 14 113
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Matilde Storgaard Bjørnvik

Get in touch with Service Designer
Matilde Storgaard Bjørnvik
+45 282 99 117
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Katja Egmose

Have a chat with our Country Manager Denmark
Katja Egmose
+45 299 00 197
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